Oil rises as Exxon halts exports from Nigeria

Nigeria union and civil society protesters in a face off with policemen following the removal of a fuel subsidy by the government in Lagos, Nigeria, Wednesday, May 18, 2016. Militant attacks on oil installations and the threat of a nationwide strike drove Nigeria's petroleum production and its naira currency to new lows Tuesday. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)
Militant attacks on oil installations and the threat of a nationwide strike have driven Nigeria’s petroleum production and its naira currency to new lows recently. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)

Oil rose as Exxon Mobil Corp. declared force majeure on shipments of Nigeria’s biggest crude export grade.

Futures rose as much as 0.5 percent in New York, reversing an earlier decline of 1.4 percent. Force majeure — a legal clause that allows it to stop shipments without breaching contracts — was declared on Qua Iboe crude after “a system anomaly observed during a routine check of its loading facility,” Exxon said in an e-mailed statement Friday. This follows a similar disruption in May and June. The Niger Delta Avengers, a militant group that has targeted oil installations in Nigeria this year, claimed earlier this week that they attacked the Qua Iboe crude pipeline.

RELATED: Exxon refutes Nigerian militants’ claim of attack on pipeline

Oil has traded between about $44 and $51 a barrel in the past month after almost doubling since February amid a spate of supply disruptions including the attacks in Nigeria. While there’s still a consensus that the worst of the oil glut that sent prices to a 12-year low is over, the International Energy Agency cautioned this week that “the road ahead is far from smooth” amid seasonal weakness in demand and the return of some halted supply.

“The situation in Nigeria and the vulnerability of supply there is well known to the market,” Harry Tchilinguirian, head of commodities research at BNP Paribas SA in London, said by e-mail. “Indeed, there are many factors playing against each other in the market.”

RELATED: Local leaders supporting militants attacking Nigerian oil production

West Texas Intermediate crude for August delivery was at $46.15 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, up 47 cents, or 1 percent, at 1:41 p.m. London time. The grade rose 93 cents to settle at $45.68 on Thursday. Total volume traded was about 1 percent below the 100-day average.

Brent for September settlement increased 49 cents to $47.86 a barrel on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange. The contract increased $1.11 to $47.37 on Thursday. The global benchmark crude traded at an 98-cent premium to WTI for September delivery.

Also helping oil higher is data showing China processed a record amount of crude on a daily basis in the first half of 2016 as privately held plants boosted operations after getting import licenses. The country’s domestic oil production dropped 4.6 percent to 101.59 million metric tons in the period, the lowest for that period since 2012, according to data from the National Bureau of Statistics on Friday.

The world’s second-biggest economy’s gross domestic product rose 6.7 percent in the second quarter from a year earlier, compared with 6.6 percent seen by economists Bloomberg surveyed.

Analysts from BNP Paribas SA to JBC Energy GmbH warned prices may sink toward $40, due in part to seasonal demand weakness. Crude fundamentals are weaker than many realize, according to Julius Walker, senior consultant at JBC Energy in Vienna.

U.S. inventories are brimming after two years of surplus production and demand for gasoline — the key driver of prices in summer — is proving to be disappointing. Stockpiles of the fuel rose 1.21 million barrels last week and refiners reduced operating rates by 0.2 percentage points to 92.3 percent of capacity, according to the Energy Information Administration.

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